Pediatric spinal cord biopsy: A case series from a high-volume referral center

Journal of Clinical Neuroscience

July 1, 2019
Michael Kakareka, Ryan Moncman, Joseph Georges, Steven Yocom, Philip B. Storm, Benjamin Kennedy



Pediatric patients presenting with intramedullary spinal cord lesions often require specific diagnoses to guide their treatment plans. Though results from magnetic resonance imaging and lumbar puncture may narrow the differential diagnosis, these tests cannot always provide a definitive diagnosis. In such cases, spinal cord biopsy may be undertaken to provide a specific histopathologic diagnosis for guiding treatment. Data from the adult population show 24% of spinal cord biopsies can be nondiagnostic and the procedure may carry a 21% complication rate. Therefore, spinal cord biopsy may portend a similar high risk-to-benefit ratio in the pediatric population. Here, we review spinal cord biopsy cases scheduled for diagnosis, and not debulking, at a high volume pediatric referral center during a seventeen-year period. We report our experience with five patients who met our inclusion criteria. Due to the rarity of the procedure, statistically significant factors associated with improved diagnostic yield or peri-operative complication could not be identified. A definitive diagnosis which guided the post-operative treatment plan was obtained in four of our five patients. None of our patients developed post-operative motor deficits. However, these patients were susceptible to the same risks of open spine surgery, such as wound infections and spinal deformities. Our case series shows that intramedullary spinal cord biopsies may provide tissue for obtaining histopatholgic diagnoses. However, the potential risks of complication, and the possibility of obtaining nondiagnostic tissue, should be discussed with patients, families and their medical treatment teams.